An Unconsidered People: 2021

 In Diary, Events, News

Twenty years ago, I travelled back and forth to Kilburn and Cricklewood, in order to meet the Irish who had settled there during the economically dark decade of the 1950s.

I chose to focus on those areas because, at that time, two decades ago, they were known as ‘another Irish county’.
People told me that they settled there because the area was located close enough to Euston Station: the end of their journey. You could walk, they said, from the train station to Kilburn and Cricklewood while carrying a suitcase.

I could have chosen any number of other locations – Coventry, Manchester, Liverpool – but I believed that the intense concentration of Irish communities in London would allow me to understand, not just their experiences, but the experiences of other immigrants in other cities all over the UK.

I wanted to gather these immigrant stories before they were lost to us forever. The people I interviewed were, even then, in their late sixties or early seventies: having fled Ireland as teenagers or young twenty-somethings.

And they were eager to tell of their experiences: of enforced emigration, for the most part; of a sense of adventure, in some cases; of the need to escape the social suffocations of rural Ireland – their reasons for leaving were many and varied. Women had particularly interesting tales to tell, and their pattern of emigration from Ireland showed an independence of spirit which was illuminating.

An Unconsidered People: 2021

We’ve had waves of emigration since: most notably in the 1980s and post-crash. I’ve added a new chapter to this updated edition, exploring the economic circumstances that led to such mass departures from this country.

I’m delighted that New Island Books has published this new edition, and very grateful to Professor Diarmaid Ferriter for his generous Foreword.

And I’m still grateful to my numerous interviewees, who gave of their time – and their tea! – so willingly. A particular word of thanks to Phyllis Izzard, who started it all, during a conversation on a boat from Croatia to Venice.

Happy 80th birthday, Phyllis Izzard!

an unconsidered people 21 - catherine dunne author

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